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Emotionalism, Revival and Second Blessing

We were watching a DVD on the Welsh Revival of 1904.  We did not finish it because the revival seemed to be based on a second blessing of the Holy Ghost.  Why would the Lord bless an event based on false teaching or are we missing something?  Also, John R. Rice wrote about Moody, R. A. Torrey, and even Spurgeon asking for more of the Holy Spirit to fill them, as in a second blessing. The Lord used them also to save souls. What are your thoughts on this?

Times of revival have almost always been times of great emotional reactions. In fact, many divisions have occurred between believers and churches concerning how to deal with these outbursts. Even some who initially support them will often come to see their harm. However, those who oppose any sort of emotional awakening usually end up on the bad side of history. This is an area where balance is most important.

I have read several histories of revivals. My conclusion is that any great working of God in the hearts of men will be accompanied by increased emotional responses. People will cry. They may drop to their knees or all the way to the floor in prayer. They may shout out praise to the Lord. As long as this stays within the control of the Lord, it will be blessed by Him. However, two things soon happen. First, people begin to identify the outbursts as the revival itself. They forget that the true revival is what God is doing in the hearts, not the secondary responses. Second, they get hooked on the emotional release and think them required for spiritual activity. As a result of these two false conclusions, many begin seeking the emotional expressions that they have equated with revival.

I find today that many people who really want revival think that the way to get it is to work up the emotional responses that they associate with revival. That is akin to trying to win the lottery by working up the outward expressions you think you would have if you won it. It is taking one of the common results of something as the thing itself. This error has led to much false worship. Revival seekers have learned to work up the emotional outbursts that they associate with revival and then count it as having had revival. This leads to an empty though emotional experience that satisfies while it is going on but seldom leaves the door of the church.

The second blessing doctrine is, as you said, often associated with revival times. But it is also associated with certain teachers and religious groups. It was for years taught by the Methodists and the Salvation Army. Moody, Torrey, and Rice all claimed to have it (though I have not really run across this teaching with Spurgeon). Of course, this teaching is a two-edged sword. If you speak against it, you are just one of those deadheads who do not know the power of God.

The problem comes from the lack of scriptural authority. Oh, there are many blessings in the Christian life. I can say that I have had numerous powerful spiritual experiences with God. Of some of them I could say that I was never quite the same afterwards. However, this is not the teaching of the second blessing. By most advocates, it is taught to be a one-time event. In fact, it is so singular that it is akin to salvation. Many advocates, though not all, teach that it leads to sinless perfection, a truly unbiblical doctrine.

Now, who am I to say that God has not given to a number of people a one-time experience that brought them into the power of the Holy Spirit as never before and that changed their life forever? Nothing in the Bible teaches us that this is not possible--as long as we do not use it to teach sinless perfection. However, this is a long ways from teaching this experience of some as a requirement for all if they are to fully know the power of God. One man I read after wrote three volumes on the subject. I read much of his Bible "proof" of the second blessing. It was full of typology, creative application, and taking verses out of context. There is no such teaching in scripture.

There are many truths that when learned and implemented may change the spiritual life of the believer in radical ways. Yet, the Bible does not teach us to look for some life changing experience. Rather, we are admonished and taught to seek the Lord Himself. We are to seek the person of Jesus Christ and seek to know Him (Philippians 3:10). We are never taught to seek an experience similar to the second blessing.

Men like D. L. Moody and John R. Rice did a great work for God and God certainly had His hand on them. However, men are men and they make errors. One common error of successful people is to assume that the way God worked with them must be the key to success since it worked with them. They know that God is the key but they end up teaching their experience. They forget that God must have all the glory and the way He works with one man is not to be the pattern for how He works with all men. The scriptures provide the only absolute patterns.

I am presently reading a biography of D. L. Moody and find his life fascinating and instructive. I read about his baptism of the Spirit (another inaccurate title for the second blessing). I even believe that the Lord gave Him a powerful experience of His presence and used him more after the experience than He did before. However, I note two things. First, God was using Moody in wonderful ways before he had this experience. Most preachers would love to have his pre-baptism results. God just had a special purpose for D. L. Moody and gave him a greater filling. Second, as I have been reading, I have noticed that Moody was not perfect after the experience. For instance, he was known to have outbursts of temper. Certainly, the pressure on him would have destroyed most of us, but that is not the point. Also, we cannot say that is was all righteous indignation. He often apologized for the anger later. There is no need to apologize for perfection. So, although Moody may have received a special enabling of the Holy Ghost, he certainly had the power of the Spirit before this time and he was not perfect afterwards. And, finally, there is no reason to use his experience as a rule for all believers. Even great men of God are wrong on many issues.

The Welsh Revival of 1904 was probably a genuine refreshing from the Lord. However, men today tend to look only at the sensational. Even in the times of the revival, this was what people talked about the most. This is one of the downsides of revival. Men have trouble distinguishing as to when they are full of the Holy Ghost and when they are full of themselves. That is not meant to be cruel but it should be a reminder that no man becomes perfect in his opinions simply because God chooses to use him. We should always be little in our own eyes and hold God up higher than all.

David Reagan
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 21:14

A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.